Webinar: Voodoo Hydrology— Pitfalls of Urban Hydrology Methods & What You Need to Know


Read on for information about this interesting webinar offered on January 21st with Andy Reese:

As a stormwater community, we have for years relied upon common urban stormwater hydrologic design methodologies and trusted their results. But, should we? Join returning speaker Andy Reese as he exposes the black box of urban hydrology. In this webinar, Andy will (with his normal humor) “lay bare” the popular urban stormwater methodologies, as well as their key elements, assumptions, most common misuses, and proper application.

Urban hydrology, including newer Green Infrastructure sizing approaches, as commonly practiced, is an inexact science at best. If we were omniscient, we could do an exact job of urban hydrology. Instead, we rely on engineering judgment and guesswork, ultimately striking a compromise between accuracy and data availability, and resulting in an answer that is close to correct. As such, understanding the inner workings of the black boxes and unstated assumptions inherent in urban stormwater hydrology that we commonly use (e.g., computer packages) is essential to ensure proper application.

Join Andy in exploring the inner workings of some of the most popular urban stormwater methodologies, as well as their common misuse and misapplications. Through discussion of the associated elements and pitfalls, you will gain comprehensive understanding of urban stormwater hydrologic methods and their proper application to employ in your urban stormwater hydrologic design.

If you are a stormwater plans reviewer, compliance officer, design engineer, consultant manager, professor, or attorney, this course is for you!

The webinar will be on Thursday January 21st at 11 am PST. Click here for more information and registration. 



Call for Presentations: 44th BCWWA Annual Conference & Trade Show


The BC Water & Waste Association is looking for presentations and panels for their upcoming conference:

“The theme of this year’s conference is Resilient, Resourceful and Ready, and we encourage presenters from all areas of the water community to submit a presentation or panel abstract. The majority of previous conference attendees are water professionals with 5 to 35 years of experience who work in an operations or design & engineering role. If you have a presentation or panel that would interest our audience, we want to hear from you!

“The topics covered in our education program are intended to encourage discussion and knowledge sharing on current issues faced by BCWWA members and the water industry.”

The conference and trade show will be held Sunday May 1st- Wednesday May 4th in Whistler. Abstracts of proposed presentations and panels should be 250 words or less, and submitted online (link below) by January 22nd. 

To learn more and submit an abstract, click here.


Free public lecture: The Human Face of Water Security

The Pacific Water Research Centre in the Faculty of Environment at SFU is pleased to invite you to a free public lecture and discussion on Monday, January 18th at 7:00 pm:

The Human Face of Water Security: A focus on vulnerable individuals and communities

Presented by Dr. Zafar Adeel, Director, Institute of Water, Environment and Health, United Nations University, Hamilton, Ontario

Monday, January 18, 2016, 7:00 pm, SFU Harbour Ctr, Rm 1900, 515 W. Hastings, Vancouver

There is growing interest in water security by politicians, policymakers, community-based organizations, and the international development community. Multiple descriptions and definitions of water security have simultaneously emerged as well, signifying a growing interest in the topic and some convergence in approaches. The perspectives on water security in many cases are driven by domain – for example, as a primarily human security issue, or as an environmental concern, or as a geopolitical and military security issue. Some recent work has also attempted to connect it to more traditional security issues including armed conflict and terrorism. Analyzed at its most basic level, however, it can be argued that water security pertains directly to the individual experience of assured access to clean, safe water. This experience, in turn, relates to sustainability of livelihoods, human wellbeing and health, environmental security, and resilience against hazards and extreme climate events. In most cases, the greatest level of water insecurity persists with individuals and communities that are disadvantaged and socially marginalized. Keeping the recent international developments in sight, most notably the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015, Dr. Adeel will explore how the global community can foster universal water security; this includes some innovations in public policy and mobilization of resources.

This event is free, but registration is recommended. Click here to register. 


Gender equity crucial in aftermath of disasters

Celia Soc'a house was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Source: Briarpatch Magazine/ Trina Moyles

Celia Soc’a house was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Source: Briarpatch Magazine/ Trina Moyles

In the chaos of natural disasters, many social systems break down. Ensuring that access to services, supports, and education in these circumstances is gender-equal is crucial for building community resilience and quick recovery.

An article in Briarpatch Magazine explores these concepts, focusing on Cuba’s response to Hurricane Sandy.

From Briarpatch

“According to the UNDP’s report on Gender and Disasters, women’s participation in different stages of disaster management – prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery – is critical to helping countries overcome disaster events.

“However, a gender-equitable response isn’t always applied in countries of the Global South, where the UN reports that women are 14 times more likely than men to die in a disaster. In the aftermath of catastrophic weather events, girls and women face risks related to sexual assault, rape, and abuse as a result of civil chaos and lawlessness. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, women living in displaced-person camps were 20 times more likely to report a sexual assault than women living in their homes.”

Since climate change will bring more frequent and intense disasters, it’s important for countries to properly plan for disaster response. Education, quick response, and access to services are all important- and equally important is the need to apply a gender lens.

Read more from the article here. 

For more on ACT’s work on extreme weather, click here.


Webinar: Financial Tools to Support Adaptation


Check out the following upcoming webinar:

Financial Tools to Support Adaptation: The Development and Implementation of Stormwater Charges and Fees 

Tuesday, January 26th 

1-2 pm ET

Municipalities are struggling to pay for their stormwater infrastructure needs, particularly in light of a changing climate. As a result, many municipalities are examining different financing mechanisms in order to better maintain, upgrade, and adapt their stormwater infrastructure to the extreme weather they are currently experiencing and expect to face. Such mechanisms increasingly include a stormwater charge. To date, the City of Mississauga is the largest city in Canada to introduce a stormwater charge. This presentation will outline the process of how Mississauga determined the most appropriate and fair type of stormwater charge for its residents and businesses, challenges in developing and implementing the charge, common themes in the public response, and how the City has responded to make the charge both accepted and effective. The presentation will also examine how the stormwater charge has provided a good opportunity to engage the public in conversations about climate change adaptation, and how the charge has enabled adaptation work within the municipality.

Click here to register. 



Will Trudeau’s Infrastructure Plan Exacerbate Climate Change?

Source: Rabble.ca

Source: Rabble.ca

When most people think of taking action on climate change, infrastructure isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

But infrastructure plays a big role in adapting to a changing climate. Our infrastructure planning can worsen the climate crisis, or it can prepare us to live more sustainable and less carbon-intensive lives.

During the recent federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a new infrastructure plan. He’s also promised serious climate action. However, some are now concerned that the new infrastructure won’t align with our climate needs.

From Rabble:

“The federal Liberals ‘historic infrastructure plan‘ acknowledges that infrastructure will need to be beefed up to deal with climate impacts such as flooding from more intense storms and rising sea levels. But when it comes to reducing the carbon pollution that threatens everything humans value, the plan is silent. And that leaves open a big door to provincial, municipal and regional governments getting billions in federal funds for projects that make the climate crisis worse. There is money in Trudeau’s budget allocated to a public transit fund which can reduce carbon pollution, but even ‘green infrastructure’ is mainly focused on replacing sewer pipes and the like rather than reducing carbon pollution….

“The cliché ‘you can’t build your way out of congestion’ is well supported by studies and experience, and has important implications for climate policy. In a 2007 study Clark Williams-Derry, Research Director of the SightLine Institute, found that ‘considering the increased emissions from highway construction and additional vehicle travel, adding one mile of new highway lane will increase CO2 emissions by more than 100,000 tons over 50 years.’…

“Trudeau has urged us to ‘take an active part in’ ensuring the success of the Paris climate agreement. Every dollar of public money spent on roadway expansion is a dollar spent to sabotage the Paris Climate agreement, and to push humanity towards truly catastrophic global warming. Let’s help Justin succeed in this tough work, by demanding that not one dollar of public infrastructure money go to increase carbon pollution.”

Read more from the article here. 


Extreme warm temperatures in North Pole this week

Arctic sea ice in the spring. Source: The Atlantic; Wasif Malik, Flickr

Arctic sea ice in the spring. Source: The Atlantic; Wasif Malik, Flickr

According to The Atlantic, this week the North Pole has seen a storm which will brought its temperature up to 2 degrees Celsius.

That’s as warm as it is today in Vancouver!

“…later this week, something extraordinary will happen: Air temperatures at the Earth’s most northernly region, in the middle of winter, will rise above freezing for only the second time on record.

“On Wednesday, the same storm system that last week spun up deadly tornadoes in the American southeast will burst into the far north, centering over Iceland. It will bring strong winds and pressure as low as is typically seen during hurricanes.

“That low pressure will suck air out of the planet’s middle latitudes and send it rushing to the Arctic. And so on Wednesday, the North Pole will likely see temperatures of about 35 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius. That’s 50 degrees hotter than average: It’s usually 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero there at this time of year.

“Winter temperatures have only snuck above freezing at the North Pole once before. Eric Holthaus, Slate’s meterologist, could not find an Arctic expert who had witnessed above-freezing temperatures at the pole between December and early April.” 

This is not good news for Arctic ice, which has already been melting at abnormally fast rates. (Not to mention, it’s not a very nice Christmas-time phenomenon: where will Santa Claus live if his home melts away?)

Read more from the article here. 



“The Climate Nexus” Featured in Georgia Straight

Book co-author Jon O’Riordan

Book co-author Jon O’Riordan

The Georgia Straight featured our new book “The Climate Nexus” in a recent article.

“Former senior civil servant Jon O’Riordan says human beings can no longer count on natural processes to absorb the impact of people on the Earth.

 “In a new book he coauthored with Canadian water expert Robert Sandford, O’Riordan argues that the “nexus” of the challenge is where water, food energy, and climate all come together. Human beings are consuming resources in such a way that they’re pushing the Earth’s systems to the brink—and there’s no predicting the degree to which people will have to adapt to the planet’s response.

“‘This nexus lies at the very heart of current civilization; it is ground zero in the fight on climate and hydrological change,’ they write in The Climate Nexus: Water, Food, Energy and Biodiversity in a Changing World.”

The article focuses on the book’s assessment of soil in a changing climate:

The Climate Nexus includes some ominous information about the effect of higher temperatures and droughts on the capacity of soil to store carbon dioxide. That’s because research has suggested that when alpine soil becomes 2° C warmer over a period of time, it can release a quarter of its stored carbon. In fact, the book states that humanity has “just a half metre of soil standing between prosperity and desolation”.

Read more from the article here.


Solar power lighting up Nigeria

Photo: Reuters/ Rogan Ward

Photo: Reuters/ Rogan Ward

In Nigeria many people still live without power. However, a new plan aims to bring solar power to one million households.

From Quartz Africa:

“With about 90 million Nigerians living without power, citizens are forced to live on expensively maintained generator sets. The effect of the lack of electricity is significant as it continues to hamper economic growth and hurts investor confidence. However a partnership between the World Bank, International Financial Corporation as well as local banks and energy firms in Nigeria could help assuage the pressing issue.

“The Lighting Africa Project, as it has been tagged, will focus on helping to develop a private sector that will provide electricity, using solar power, to up to a million households in Nigeria. The project will target households without access to the national grid in rural communities over the next five years.

“To make this happen, the World Bank will play a key role as it will provide low-interest financing for investors and energy firms involved in the partnership. One of the major goals of the project is to reduce the heavy dependence on kerosene lamps and gasoline-powered generators which pose various health and environmental risks.”

Read more from the article here. 


Success of Paris agreement depends on action at home

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by the premiers of Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba, at COP21 on November 30, 2015. Photo: Province of B.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by the premiers of Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, at COP21 on November 30, 2015. Photo: Province of B.C.

Now that the Paris Agreement is complete and world leaders are back at home, each country has to plan their own domestic policies to achieve the Paris promises.

For Canada, as the Pembina Institute argues, the success of the Paris Agreement will be measured by policy progress at home. It’s not enough for Canada to promise action: we must now undertake large and well-planned policy changes.

The Pembina Institute recommends three main courses of action for the Canadian government:

1. Policy support to green Canada’s electricity grid

2. Financial and policy support for low-carbon businesses

3. A credible climate test for all fossil fuel projects and related infrastructure

Read more from the article here. 


Agriculture was left out of Paris deal

Source: Think Progress; AP Photo/ Bullit Marquez, File

Source: Think Progress; AP Photo/ Bullit Marquez, File

While agriculture was mentioned during the Paris talks at COP21, the final main text does not include actions on agriculture.

Some countries discussed agriculture in the individual climate pledges they made before the conference, known as INDCs. Food security is also mentioned in the preamble to the final text. However, the absence of having agriculture mentioned in the main text itself is causing concern for some.

From Think Progress: 

Despite claiming nearly half of the world’s land and accounting for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, food and agriculture had always played a secondary role in international climate negotiations, pushed aside in favor of discussions about energy and transportation.

“”As a farmer, I sense among my colleagues a growing frustration with this whole process,” Theo De Jager, president of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO), said during a panel on agriculture and climate change at the Global Landscapes Forum, a two-day event held in Paris during the climate conference. “If we can make such a difference in emissions, why aren’t we mentioned more specifically? There is no fraternity in the world who is more susceptible to climate change than farmers. There is also no fraternity in the world who can do more to decrease emissions over the shortest space of time, in a cheaper way, than we can.”

“Even if agriculture is not explicitly mentioned in an international agreement on climate change, that doesn’t necessarily forestall farmers, companies, and research groups from taking action to adopt the mitigation and adaptation strategies outlined in countries’ INDCs — but it does raise the question of where money for those strategies will come from.”

Continue reading the article here.

ACT’s work has focused on agriculture by highlighting the links between food production, water governance, energy production, and biodiversity in a changing climate. Our newest work on this topic is our book The Climate Nexus. Click here to also see our background work on crops and food security. Preview


San Diego: Entirely Renewable Energy in 20 Years

Angie Vorhies charged her electric car in San Diego in 2013. The city has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy, becoming the largest American municipality to do so. Source: The New York Times; Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

Angie Vorhies charged her electric car in San Diego in 2013. The city has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy, becoming the largest American municipality to do so. Source: The New York Times; Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press
















San Diego is showing that cities can take bold climate action without waiting for national initiatives.

From The New York Times:

“With a unanimous City Council vote, San Diego, the country’s eighth-largest city, became the largest American municipality to transition to using 100 percent renewable energy, including wind and solar power. In the wake of the Paris accord, environmental groups hailed the move as both substantive and symbolic.

“Other big cities, including New York and San Francisco, have said they intend to use more renewable energy, but San Diego is the first of them to make the pledge legally binding. Under the ordinance, it has committed to completing its transition and cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.

“The steps to get there may include transferring some control of power management to the city from the local utility. Officials said they would also shift half of the city’s fleet to electric vehicles by 2020 and recycle 98 percent of the methane produced by sewage and water treatment plants.”

San Diego’s plan proves that local governments can still take meaningful action against climate change. Municipal action like this also puts pressure on higher levels of government to take action. Furthermore, the plan is a challenge to other cities- what else can cities do to curb the worst impacts of climate change?

Read more from the article here. 


Sponge Park: Ecosystem-Based Adaptation

Source: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

Source: Ángel Franco/The New York Times















A new park in New York City provides a great example of ecosystem-based adaptation as non-structural flood mitigation.

From The New York Times: 

“Aptly called Sponge Park, the 2,100-square-foot plot will, when it opens next spring, intercept thousands of gallons of storm water, along with pollutants like heavy metals and dog waste, before they can enter the canal. The park’s absorbent qualities come from flood-tolerant plantings like asters, Rosa rugosa and sedge grass, as well as a network of sand beds and soils designed to hold water.

“The park is part of a larger effort in New York City and urban areas across the country to prevent polluted storm water from flowing directly into rivers or overloading sewage treatment plants. With combined storm-sewer systems like New York’s, in which one set of pipes handles both sewage and storm water, even moderate rainfall can overwhelm treatment plants, causing raw sewage to spew into waterways.

“Each year across the city, nearly 30 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted storm water are discharged from hundreds of pipes into local waterways when sewage plants are overwhelmed. Such overflows can occur up to 75 times a year, according to the environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council, and are the most serious challenge to water quality in the New York area, preventing rivers and bays from meeting federal standards for swimming, fishing and wildlife habitats.”

Read more from the article here. 


ACT ED Profiled in SFU Public Policy Magazine

debACT’s Executive Director Deb Harford was interviewed for the Winter issue of the SFU School of Public Policy Magazine.

Deb discusses how ACT got started and how it has evolved since its inception. One exciting point is that climate change adaptation did not used to be a pressing concern for many in Canada, but with ACT’s help that has changed:

“When ACT was established almost a decade ago, few in Canada were talking openly at a policy level about climate change. Since then this has changed dramatically, with most governments now engaged in risk assessments and development of adaptation policies. I point to BC, Ontario and Quebec as three major provincial players, and there are many more at the municipal level. There is now a much wider general level of awareness and a greater level of expertise at the practitioner level.

“Adaptation to climate change used to be viewed primarily as a planning problem, but now it’s also seen as a policy problem. I’m proud to say that ACT was ahead of the curve on this. From early on, ACT’s role has been showing the signposts – pointing out the directions that policy makers should take in addressing the necessary adaptations to climate change.”

Deb also highlights some of ACT’s current work. The most exciting recent ACT news is the release of our book, The Climate Nexus: Water, Food, Energy and Biodiversity in a Changing World. Click here to learn more about this new book. 

Read the rest of Deb’s interview here. 


Read Now: Report on Columbia River Treaty Workshop October 7th


On October 7th of this year, ACT in partnership with the Canadian Water Resources Association hosted a one-day workshop on the Columbia River Treaty.

This workshop was titled “Columbia River Treaty: Past, Present and Future” and featured expert presentations and panel discussions on social, political, legal and environmental issues related to the treaty, with a special focus on the Okanagan valley as a sub-basin of the Columbia River.

The Proceedings and Outcomes Report from that workshop is now available for online reading or PDF download. Click here to access this report. 

ACT continues to work on issues related to the Columbia River Treaty. Stay tuned for future updates as this work proceeds.


After Paris: What’s Next for Canada?

Source: The Globe and Mail

Source: The Globe and Mail

Now that the Paris agreement has been reached, what will Canada do domestically to keep its promises?

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna will now turn to working with the provinces and territories to establish a national plan, as well as meeting with North American partners.

From The Globe and Mail:

“The federal government has given itself a tight deadline of 90 days to thrash out the thorny economic and environmental issues before a first ministers’ meeting that will establish a Canada-wide approach to climate change.

“At the same time, Ottawa says it will be working with the United States and Mexico toward a continental deal. Canadian governments of various political stripes have long sought to have the U.S., in particular, on board for major new environmental rules in order to avoid placing Canadian industry at a disadvantage.”

Continue reading the article here. 

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